Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Land Day يوم الارض

In Commemoration of Land Day.

"Why does everyone in Gaza love Barcelona?"

A friend sent me this link, from Al Jazeera's blog, I don't know how my co-author would feel about it seeing as he is a Madrid fan, but hey, its a good read and sheds light on the situation in Gaza:

"Why are the people of Gaza apparently nuts about Barcelona Football Club?
The question arose when I asked where I might be able to watch the big champions league match between Barcelona and Arsenal.
First, dear reader, a confession. I am an Arsenal fan, and this is an important game. When I explained this to a colleague in the Al Jazeera Gaza office, he looked concerned. “You must be very careful, it could be dangerous to watch that game," he said.
It’s true, I had heard that Gaza could be dangerous, in various ways, but had not anticipated that watching a football match on TV, or my allegiance for Arsenal, would be a flash-point. “Everyone in Gaza is crazy about Barcelona, so you might want to keep a low profile," he warned.
After a week of driving round this crowded, impoverished and fascinating place, I can confirm that there are an awful lot of Barcelona replica kits being worn in Gaza, many of them bearing the name of the Argentinean superstar, Lionel Messi.
A friend of mine says that people in Gaza support Barcelona, because they share a passion for the welfare of children, (Barcelona, atypically in the world of football, has rejected lucrative shirt sponsorship deals from major companies, and instead chooses to wear the logo of the UN’s children’s fund, UNICEF, for free).
No prizes for guessing that my friend works for UNICEF. Nice theory, but I suspect the truth is more obvious; people in Gaza support Barcelona because they appreciate great football.
Not only that, but Barcelona are winners, and people here don’t have too much to smile about. (Another intriguing theory I’ve heard is that the Palestinians of Gaza, proud of an identity forged under such difficult conditions, admire Barcelona because of its ties to Catalan nationalism, which has thrived despite disapproval from Madrid).
Of course, the passion for a foreign football team may also be a reflection of how the people of Gaza are starved of any domestic action.
Due to political tensions between Hamas and Fatah, all high level cup and league games have been suspended in Gaza since 2007.
But this week, there was good news. Football administrators here have overcome their differences, and just announced the resumption of competitive matches; the first game takes place later this week. (Watch out for a TV report on this in the next few days on Al Jazeera English from my colleague Casey Kauffman).
So, will the resumption of live football in Gaza weaken the hold of Barcelona on people’s imagination? Somehow, I doubt it. Gaza might have to come up with its own Lionel Messi first. "

Like other aspects of life in Gaza, the state of football is grim. Considering that Gaza has historically been our talent factory with its concentrated population and long established clubs, this is an even sadder reality. In the early days of the modern national team most players came from Gaza. Names like Ziyad Al Kord, Saeb Jendeya and Ramzi Saleh are household with Palestinian fans.
This onus has shifted to the West Bank with the resumption of the domestic league there resulting in a worrying talent drain. Top Gazan players have been signing on to West Bank and foreign clubs where they could make a living plying their trade. The players stuck inside the strip do not have it as good, they cannot even leave to play with the national team. With the Israeli blockade, there is little to no hope anything will get better. Of course the Israeli occupation detriments football in the West Bank as well as we have seen recently, but thats another topic for another day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

News Roundup: Saleh, Keshkesh may be on the move, Women's National Team jumps in FIFA rankings

According to rumors in the Egyptian Press, Ramzi Saleh might be on the verge of a move to Arab Contractors (Al-Mokawloon Al-Arab) that would guarantee him playing time. The proposed deal would send defender Basim Ali to El-Ahly in exchange for already on-loan Ateya Al-Belqasi and Ramzi Saleh. Ramzi Saleh lost his starting job after being injured in preseason. The role was handed to youth team player Ahmed Abdel-Mounem and Saleh was not given an opportunity to win the job back, despite some impressive play that had earned him a Player of the Month Award and helped El-Ahly retain the Premier League crown.

Saleh's situation worsened when the club brought in Sherif Ekramy during the transfer window Saleh was even seen playing and scoring as a forward during one training session. Ramzi Saleh has said that he is currently studying offers from Egypt and other Arab Leagues.

Ahmed Keshkesh who has five league goals to his name with Wehdat might be looking for a new club as well. Negotiations to renew his one-year contract have not started and the player has complained that his goal tally has suffered as a result of playing most the season out on the wing. No clubs have contacted Keshkesh to enquire about his services.

The Women's National team has achieved a ranked status for the first time thanks to their improved displays at the WAFF tournament. They are now ranked 87th in the World and 17th in Asia.

Over in Europe... Imad Zatara played 20 minutes as a substitute in Nîmes disastrous 4-1 loss to Châteauroux. They now lie 6th in the league 5 points behind FC Metz for the final promotion place. Omar Jarun's hunt for first division football was boosted as he started and played all 90 minutes of Pogon Szczecin's 0-0 draw against Flota Swinoujscie. Pogon still hold the final promotion place over Lodz due to goal difference.

Egypt Withdraws/Postpones Olympic Friendly

There has been some chatter over the kooora forums that can now be confirmed: It seems that the Egyptian FA have chosen to cancel (or postpone depending on the source) the Friendly between Egypt's and Palestine's Olympic teams meant to commemorate Day of the Land. The reasons seem to be due to political pressure brought about by the proposed match. The Egpytian team would have needed Israeli travel permits in order to play at the Faisal Al-Husseini Memorial Stadium in Al-Ram and many in Egypt saw this as a furthering of the normalization process between the two countries.

For his part, Mohammed Aboutreika was denied permission to travel by El-Ahly who are currently engaged in the African Champions League. After the controversy broke out he proclaimed that he would "visit and play in Jerusalem once it is liberated".

Monday, March 8, 2010

Olympic Team to face Egypt and Abutreika

In preparation for upcoming 2012 Olympic Qualifiers, Palestine will face a talented Egyptian side that will include Mohammed Abutreika in its ranks. The match will take place on March 30th in the Faisal Al-Husseini Memorial Stadium in Al-Ram.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chile Earthquake

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the lives that were taken by the earthquake in Chile. We would like to send our best wishes to all of our brothers there and wish them a quick and speedy recovery. We are looking forward to the resumption of the Apertura next week and seeing Chile compete in the World cup in 100 days time.